The IRS Spent $12 Million on Software It Couldn’t Possibly Use
Policy + Politics

The IRS Spent $12 Million on Software It Couldn’t Possibly Use

The first thing that even a child knows before s/he asks for a new video game for her birthday is whether it will play on that old PlayStation II.

Like any software or hardware that’s connected to a computer, there are instructions “before you buy” that tell you exactly what’s required of your operating system, such as Windows 7 or higher. When the IRS decided to comply with the Obama Administration’s directive to preserve permanent records of all emails by December 2016, they chose a very popular cloud-based suite of office applications from Microsoft called MS Office 365 ProPlus and MS Exchange Online Plan 2.

Related: The IRS Wants Its Share of the Multi-Billion Dollar Sharing Economy

Instead of buying subscriptions for their thousands of employees, they bought perpetual licenses for the software. I can testify that MSOffice 365 is a smart idea for almost any business that wants to archive their files on the cloud, have them backed up automatically on multiple servers, and get new versions of all Microsoft software as part of the subscription of license.

So went wrong at the IRS? It seems their crackerjack I.T. department never checked whether the computers – you know, the hardware that fried Lois Lerner’s email – were capable of handling the new software.

“The purchase was made without first determining project infrastructure needs, integration requirements, business requirements, security and portal bandwidth, and whether the subscriptions were technologically feasible on the IRS enterprise,” the auditors wrote. Interestingly, the IRS also flaunted the rules when they bought the subscriptions with appropriations from fiscal year 2014-2015 but didn’t implement the software in those years, thus violating federal accounting rules. They also flaunted federal rules by not letting other companies bid on the job.

Related: Hacked Again: Can the IRS Protect Your Tax Info This Year?

I can imagine the conversation between the chief information officer and her staff: “Hey, did anyone know about this 2016 deadline from the administration on archiving all emails and docs? No? Well, what’s the quickest solution so we don’t get caught in OPMs crosshairs.”

S. Gina Garza, the IRS’s CIO, thinks it’s perfectly fine to waste $12 million taxpayer dollars and violate existing procedures and best practices set by the administration. She wrote, “At the time of the acquisition, the IRS deemed the subscription purchases strictly as an upgrade from our current version of MS products, following the same approach and practices that had been used for prior upgrades. As such, the IRS followed appropriate management processes and developed the acquisition plan in line with FAR regulations for acquiring upgrades to software.”

That’s a little like saying that a grand piano would fit in the same space as an upright.